Most Penangites have no clue about massive highway project, says NGO

Penang Forum member Lim Gaik Siang.

GEORGE TOWN: A NGO which has been organising explainers – sessions to explain – a proposed highway project in Penang over the past two months today revealed that many islanders are unaware of the mammoth project taking place in their backyards.

Penang Forum member Lim Gaik Siang said this was based on the attendance and feedback obtained from the participants at explainers on the Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1) highway.

At a press conference after an explainer at a college here, she said since the explainers began in July, more residents were expressing surprise over the project, with many saying they had not heard of it coming to their area.

She said most of the participants were concerned about the plan to tunnel through hills to construct the 19.5km Pan Island Link 1 (PIL 1).

“From these explainers, we have managed to get 2,000 objection letters from education institutions and others along the Gottlieb and Bagan Jermal roads, where a six-lane flyover will be built.

“We have received another 1,000 objection letters from various concerned parties, which we have sent to the chief minister, the environment minister and the Department of Environment,” she said.

Lim Gaik Siang explaining the PIL1 highway project at a talk in Penang.

Another Penang Forum member, Khoo Salma Nasution, said the negative effect of the highway would not only be felt by those along the alignment, but also areas further away.

She explained that the roads connecting to the highway would be likely built in suburbs and the traffic leading to the new road would spill over into residential areas.

“Until today, we have yet to see a Traffic Impact Assessment or a TIA of this highway project. There is also no transparency on how feeder roads will connect to this highway,” she said.

Previously, the Penang government said it had reached out to nearly 20,000 people since 2015 through 965 explainer sessions held by project delivery partner SRS Consortium.

The PIL 1 highway has caused much unrest to residents and groups who are afraid of its environmental impact, as portions of the hill will be tunnelled through by a “drill and blast” method, using close to 1,000 tonnes of explosives.

The highway will link Gurney Drive in the northeast via the hills of Air Itam, Paya Terubong and Sungai Ara before ending close to the second bridge in the south.

The Penang government has since allayed fears, saying the project remained a proposal and would only proceed when federal environmental regulators gave the green light.

The Department of Environment has extended the objection period to Sept 24.